The cost of Christmas is officially on the rise; with inflation at a five-year high of 3% and food and energy prices rising, running the boiler and buying those all-important Christmas groceries will already be costing more. With less than five weeks left to go until the big day, consumers are likely to be concerned about how much the festive season will dent their bank balance, and they may not even be able to rely on decent credit card deals to cover the cost.
Unfortunately, our latest figures show that interest-free deals on credit cards have been shrinking over the past six months, giving consumers fewer months to spread the cost of Christmas. And that's not all – at the same time, the cost of withdrawing cash using a credit card is on the rise, and cashback cards are becoming far less rewarding, with fewer deals and less competitive cashback terms.
The table below highlights the changes in more detail. As you can see, while the average rate for withdrawing cash has increased over the last year, cashback and 0% interest deals have both declined, with the average term now being notably lower than six months ago.
"The pressure on families over Christmas is only set to grow, what with the cost of energy and food rising, not to mention the recent rise in interest rates," said Rachel Springall, finance expert at moneyfacts.co.uk. "All of this combined will make it increasingly more difficult for households to stretch their budgets to cover the festive season. Those who are just about managing should also avoid taking out cash on their credit card due to the cost of fees and interest.
"There are still some ways for shoppers to make the most of any spending, such as by earning some cashback with a credit card, or even by making use of an interest-free purchase card to spread the cost of Christmas, but the offers are not as rewarding as they once were."
Some may think of utilising the cashback offers that are now part and parcel of many current accounts, but even these are being cut, as Rachel continues:
"Cashback is tightening on both credit cards and current accounts, with NatWest previously paying up to 3% cashback on utility bills through its Reward current account, which is now down to 2%. Similarly, Halifax once offered a £125 switching incentive for its Reward Account as well as £5 a month, now down to £75 and £3 respectively.
"However, consumers can still get £185 in gift cards from M&S Bank if they switch to their current account and stay for 12 months. There's also still American Express, which offers an Everyday Cashback Card paying 5% cashback for the first three months, plus a 'shop small' incentive for two weeks in December whereby shoppers can earn £5 when they spend £10 or more. Alternatively, customers who shop online could buy gifts through websites such as TopCashback to earn a little extra each time they shop.
"While the rewards continue to slim down and consumers' bank balances shrink, it's important for shoppers to start counting down the cost of Christmas, attempt to rein in their spending and seek advice if they are struggling to cope."
Rewards may be shrinking, but that makes it even more important to make sure you're getting the best deals possible. The table below outlines some of these deals, which could help you make the most of rewarding credit cards and current accounts throughout the festive season.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.